The men and women that have volunteered to fight fires in the city of Milford have a long history of service and dedication to the local community that spans over three centuries. Still sitting in the Engine Room at Carlisle Fire Co. today is the company’s first motorized apparatus simply named Truck No. 1, that to many is a constant reminder of the sacrifices of previous servicemen, a symbol of gratitude and a connection to the past. Purchased over 98 years ago, the truck is now in need of repair and service if it is to remain with the fire company and be preserved for future generations.
Dating back to 1802, when the Delaware Legislature granted a charter to the People of the Town of Milford authorizing the operation of a volunteer fire fighting organization, the volunteer servicemen fought fires with nothing more than a hook and ladder truck and buckets of water. C.E. “Charles” Varney was elected President of the firefighters on April 13, 1915 and remained in office for more than 30 years. At that time the fire company reincorporated under the name of the Milford Fire Company, Inc., with a charter which permitted them all the rights of any commercial corporation. The Milford Fire Company was renamed The Carlisle Fire Company on November 12, 1918 in honor of Paris T. Carlisle, IV, an active member of the Milford Fire Company who went off to fight in World War I and never came back. Carlisle was killed in action on October 6, 1918 near the Meuse River in France.
In 1915, members of the fire company decided to raise funds to purchase a triple combination fire truck, including pump, chemical tanks and ladders. After a busy ten-day campaign which raised $4,345, they purchased Truck No. 1 from the American La France Fire Truck Company of Elmira, New York. The truck cost $6,750 and the difference was made up by carnival proceeds. At the same meeting which authorized the first truck, the men also agreed to purchase their first uniforms and caps from Derrickson’s Men’s Store in Milford. When the new truck arrived in July 1916, it was housed with appropriate ceremonies in the building then occupied by the city offices. There was an Open House party, a parade and all the firemen attended church services in their new uniforms.
According to Glen GIllespie, Vice President Carlisle Fire Co., Fire Truck No. 1 was the first motorized fire apparatuses in Milford and one of the first motorized apparatuses south of the Chesapeake and Delaware Canal. Through his own research, Gillespie has uncovered that Truck No,1 fought several large fires in Milford’s history including the fire at Barto Shirt Factory in 1921 and the fire at the old Torches Canning Factory in the 1960’s.
“This truck has a tremendous amount of history in this community,” commented Gillespie. “As a young boy I remember seeing that truck on the banks of the Mispillion River drafting water from the river to other trucks to fight at Torches Canning Factory and the Acme on SE Front Street.”
Gillespie, a strong advocate for saving Truck No.1, says that age has taken over the truck which now needs approximately $35,000 for repairs and $150,000 for full restoration. He says that with all fire trucks age becomes a problem but that this apparatus is at a point now that if an investment is not made to repair, restore and preserve Truck No. 1 quickly, “it is a possibility that we could lose a valuable piece of our history.”
“At the time in which Truck No. 1 was purchased, there was a significant evolution that occurred within the fire company,” stated Gillespie. “Prior to the purchase of this truck, the fire department was still utilizing hand drawn force pumps to fight fires. This truck was the first on the scene to fight fires and for decades assisted newer trucks as it pumped water from the source to the trucks which then provided that water to the men.”
Gillespie is committed to saving Truck No. 1 and believes that the creation of a committee to oversee fundraising efforts is necessary to secure the truck’s future. He is asking that individuals, businesses and community leaders come forth to help with efforts to help repair, restore and preserve the apparatus for future generations in the Milford community. Those interested in becoming a part of the committee and helping the cause to preserve Truck No.1 are encouraged to contact Glenn Gillespie at firstname.lastname@example.org or 302-382-2906 .